The Great CES Keynote Debacle: Qualcomm Had To Convince The World It Wasn’t An “Ingredient” Company

Going into this year’s CES, Qualcomm had a hell of a problem on their hands — how would a company that planned to talk about mobile chipsets of all things make its big keynote one to remember? As it turns out, its answer was to make said keynote as equally hilarious and cringeworthy as possible.

Qualcomm was absolutely all over the place, and believe me, it was a sight to behold. It started off innocuously enough with three of the most obnoxious stereotypes that have ever graced a keynote stage. My favorite? This guy, the “gamer” who repeatedly got in his partners’ faces and loudly proclaimed his proclivity for pwning people.


Then, like a bolt from the blue, none other than Steve Ballmer took the stage and spoke passionately about all the Qualcomm chips that have found their way into Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 devices. Oh, and he made plenty of faces like this one:


Lest you think there was news to be found there — Qualcomm revamped its Snapdragon series mobile chipsets after all, and Qualcomm CEO Dr. Paul Jacobs was clearly enthused by the news:


Then shit got real. Then Big Bird showed up. Sure, it was under the auspices of talking about a new Vuforia-powered augmented reality app, but the image of a six-foot tall Muppet and a very smart man dressed as a “birdketeer” isn’t the sort of thing that’s easily driven from one’s mind. (Side note: I had a nightmare about that very scenario last night. Couldn’t sleep a wink.)


And then, for reasons passing comprehension, Archbishop Desmond Tutu (you know, one of the most prominent anti-apartheid activists South Africa has ever seen) greeted us all via pre-recorded video. Thanks, I guess!


Finally, just when it seemed like that hour-long roller coaster had finally come to an end, Adam Levine came out on stage to croon at a sea of writers, analysts, and vendors. Welcome to CES, ladies and gentlemen.


Now, you may be wondering why I wrote this in the first place. Regardless of how you feel about how the event played out (my personal reaction was to bury my face in my hands and mutter every so often), one of Qualcomm’s biggest quandaries is that it’s perceived as an “ingredient” brand — that is, its products are important components of other more notable ones. Sure, I’m the sort of person who religiously follows Snapdragon news, but the same can’t be said for the rest of the folks in attendance here.

Qualcomm’s big objective here was to make a big splash and prove itself as an interesting company worth keeping tabs on — its methods may have been, well, kooky, but there’s no question that Qualcomm opened a few eyes.